KUALA LUMPUR – October 9, 2019: Ah, the birds and the bees – the one touchy subject about which most parents squirm and dread to talk with their children.
Parent-child sex conversations generally seem to be treated as taboo, as demonstrated by the look of apprehension spread across the faces of most of the mothers who attended a workshop on sex education with their pre-teen daughters at Publika, Solaris Dutamas last weekend.
‘Let’s Talk About Sex: Nothing to Haid’ was a mother-daughter workshop for young Malaysians, organised by Makchic and SPOT (Soroptimist Puberty Organising Toolkit).
It was apparent at the workshop that the daughters were eager to learn and to know about issues surrounding sex including the development of their own bodies.
Conducting the session was 34-year-old Siti Aishah Hassan Hasri, the founder of SPOT.
She has worked on designing, delivering and training volunteers to run the programs all over Malays.
Makchic is an online portal for urban Malaysian parents, while SPOT is Malaysia’s No 1 comprehensive sexuality education provider and also a movement “started by girls, for girls” that focuses on educating and empowering women and girls.
Sassy and spunky, Siti Aishah spoke with ease and lively engagement on this very difficult subject.
She could connect with the young girls who reciprocated with much enthusiasm. Even with the mothers.
Kudos to Siti Aishah for taking that heavy weight off the moms.
“I would not even know where to begin to talk about the subject with my daughter, let alone how,” said Ain Samed who attended the workshop with her 12-year-old niece.
Ain confessed that she herself had never discussed the issue of sex and sexuality with her own daughter who is now 26.
“Quite ashamed about it now… but I never really thought about it,” said the 63-year-old media consultant. Her daughter, Nur, was also at the talk.
This workshop was designed to not only empower young girls with the right knowledge on human sexuality, but also to create a safe and non-judgmental place where a healthy discourse on intimate details about the subject is encouraged.
The programme was divided into two sessions: Session 1 (for girls aged 9-12 years) and Session 2 for girls (aged 13-17 years), held on Oct 5 and 6 with 60 and 30 participants in attendance, respectively.
SPOT’s programmes are modelled after the International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education (ITGSE 2018), which emphasises the need to discuss menstruation with girls as young as nine years old, as failures to do so may negatively impact the lives of girls.
Since its introduction in 2015, SPOT has reached more than 8,500 girls in more than 40 schools nationwide. Their programs are endorsed and approved by the Ministry of Education (MOE), Ministry of Health (MOH), and Lembaga Penduduk dan Pembangunan Keluarga Negara (LPPKN).
Najmin Tajudin, special projects coordinator and writer for Makchic, said that she was shocked to find out that many readers of the portal admitted to have been sexually abused as children — a revelation that prompted the Makchic team to conduct their own sex education programme.
“We regularly engage with our community of readers, especially on Instagram through sharing sessions. Our popular monthly session, called ‘Mama Secrets’ recently discussed sexual harassments experienced by our audience.
“It was heartbreaking to discover that not only is this common, but that a large number of our audience endured abuses as children,” she said.
“When we were approached by SPOT to engage our community in a discussion about sexual education, we were pleased to discover that many parents shared our views that this discussion is not only needed, but incredibly important.
“Though while parents wanted to discuss this openly, they also didn’t know how to begin the conversation with their children,” Najmin added.
According to Najmin, SPOT is planning to get fathers and sons involved in its future workshops.
“We believe that this discussion is important and we are happy to explore the possibilities of running similar workshops in the future… especially since we have received overwhelmingly positive responses from mothers that have attended the sessions last weekend.
“SPOT recognises the need to include boys in the discussion and is currently working on delivering modules for boys,” she noted.